Day 4 - Spanish Service Station to a Worse Spanish Service Station

We wake up and we're still at the grotty service station, and the purple neon light of the bar is still going. The toilets are opened. We drive on.

The scenery becomes rugged and wild for a while, with imposing cliffs and rocks. We see vultures circling. Then we hit the Madrid traffic. For forty minutes we go nowhere.

Now we're past Madrid and well into Don Quixote country. The landscape is dotted with huge figures of black bulls and spanish entertainers with red waistcoats and guitars. We decide not to stop for entertainment.

Elsa in Don Quixote country

After last nights debacle we start looking for a campsite early. This is major tourist country - not urban wasteland like last night. There on the horizon we spy a row of ancient windmills climbing up an isolated hill. We decide to pay it a visit.

The village at the foot of the hill wasn't designed for Land Rovers. We work our way through the narrow streets and find the road signposted to the windmills. Seven or eight of them dot the ridge of the hill above the town and the great plain beyond. The first was a tourist information office! How lucky we felt.

After a quick tour of the mill workings above, we ask the woman at the desk if there's a camp site nearby. Her english is good enough for us to converse. She tells us the nearest is Toledo, maybe an hour's drive away. We pick up some maps and guides and wander back to Elsa. Toledo is the wrong way, and we are torn between heading for a decent camp site and making miles to our real objective, Morocco.

I look at one of the maps we picked up. There's a symbol with a cluster of tents about three miles from the windmills, on the town that straddles the main road south. We head back to the windmill to ask what that is. "Is that a campsite?" we ask her. "No", she says, "it is a place to put tents". We are bemused. "Okay", says Sam, "we want to put our tent there". She gives us directions, which we really dont understand. Something about 16km to the mountains. Sam has clearly had enough, and we get back into the car.

We try and follow her directions, but find nothing. Sam is now frustrated, and we just decide to head south and stop at the next service station.

This one will do, and we pull in. There's a VW Combi van with british plates parked up. "Australians", I tell Sam. "And I bet they bought the van from Earls Court!". Sure enough, we get a friendly "G'day!" from one of the occupants. Three australians touring Europe. However, they'd not got the van from Earls Court!

They had been camping in service stations all round Europe, and tell us that the spanish ones are actually good! We pull up alongside them and talk for a while, before the three of us sleep in Elsa again. This time I get to sleep in the front seats. There's not much room to stretch.

- Worse Service Station to the Beach From Hell